If you’re looking for a grand setting matched with off-the-hook riding, then check out the Panguitch Old Skool Rally, held for the fifth year from July 6 – 9 at the Garfield County Fairgrounds in Panguitch, Utah. “Off-the-Hook” is a phrase that has seen its day but is defined as an outrageous or beyond-expectation experience, and off-the-hook is what you’ll get in Panguitch, part of the Utah Heritage Highway, just seven miles north of scenic highway 12 near Bryce Canyon.
Asked what brings people to the rally, Steve Garrett, organizer, and leader said, “The riding. There are five National Parks all around us. We are about the bikers, the town, and nothing else.”
Garrett, his wife Sue, and a dedicated team of staff and volunteers have worked hard to strengthen ties with the City of Panguitch. This year, the city helped prepare the fairgrounds and cleaned the main building for biker registration. They also erected large tents and helped Garrett hoist a new welcoming sign, sponsored by Russ Brown Motorcycle Attorneys, on Highway 89, the ingress to both north and south Panguitch. “The town appreciates this,” Garret said, “with its big welcome to Panguitch message.”
Started officially in 2008 by Rick Story, a long-time employee of Timpanogos (now Summit) Harley Davidson, with assistance from his wife Sweetie, the rally grew in four years but health concerns forced Rick and Sweetie to take a break this year. Garrett, who’d worked with Story in the previous rallies, took over leadership with assistance from his friend, Rabbit Downward.
“Old school meant pride and brotherhood,” Story said. “It used to be that all bikers cared about one another, and it didn’t matter what kind of bike you had.” The rally is evidence that old school doesn’t mean old, and old school ideals aren’t dead.
Bikers helping bikers, at no cost, still lives as one of the main benefits of connecting with the Russ Brown Motorcycle Lawyers organization. They were a major sponsor of the Panguitch Rally this year, along with Zion Harley Davidson, and Wasatch Indian Motorcycles. Other sponsors were Blackline Speedshop, Tunex Car Care, Steve’s Black Sabbath BBQ, Jorgensen’s Powersports, Utah’s Bryce Canyon Country Radio, and the city of Panguitch. The city slogan, “A Change of Pace,” could also describe motorcycling through the area’s mountains, tight curves, and small towns.
But there’s also plenty to suggest that the rally is evolving; many young people attended, and while a few paper maps were available for the hard-core old schoolers, all of the 10 rides selected for self-guided tours came with a QR code too, so new school bikers could download the map into their cell phones and check directions, points of interest, and gas stops on their tour.
Set in a small town, surrounded by incredible riding, this rally is primed to grow. It reminded me of another small-town rally with off-the-hook riding that’s become world-famous. Panguitch (pop. 1734) isn’t Sturgis though, for there are no bars in town, stores close early, and on Sunday morning you won’t find an open gas station until 10:00 am. Old Skool solutions still work for solving problems though, and the simple solution is to fill your tank on Saturday night.
Set in the valley of the Middle Rockies at 6624 feet, Panguitch means “Big Fish” in the Paiute language. Standing at the rally site looking to the north and east, the Cedar and Uinta Mountains held patches of snow; right next to the rally in the fairgrounds, a rider was taking another kind of horse for a run on the racetrack. But it’s the riding that draws bikers with light traffic, mountains, and National Parks offering beautiful riding options in every direction.
It was easy to ride in and park at the fairgrounds. In a short walking distance, riders chose from among 15 vendors for food and biker wares, filling their bellies and a chance to win a 2002 Ultra Glide. Lucky biker Wayne Nordgren from central Utah had the winning ticket to the 2-wheeled prize.
Bikers flocked back from their tours and the poker run late Saturday afternoon to enjoy bike rodeo games. Rally highlights included three days and nights of live music and the convenience of ten hotels on the main street within five blocks of the rally grounds.
The old and new school bikers in Panguitch, like other rallies, could also give of themselves to benefit people in Panguitch on the opposite ends of the age spectrum. Lyle Bauer, former Canadian Football League player and CFL Executive survived throat cancer in 2004. He then started the Never Alone Cancer Foundation to provide emotional, financial, and informational support to patients and families affected by cancer. Bauer’s foundation donated wristbands for bikers to purchase and the proceeds went to residents of Panguitch’s Garfield Senior Living Center to help with expenses not covered by Medicare or Medicaid.
Money from a second fundraising opportunity went to the sixth-grade class at Panguitch Elementary School. Their goal is to travel to Washington D.C. to lay wreaths on soldier’s graves at Arlington National Cemetery. Following an impassioned speech by Garrett at Saturday night’s concert by Jagertown, a band performing every year at the Old Skool Rally, bikers donated over one thousand dollars to help the kids meet their goals.
Raising money or issuing the biker salute to one another is part of the old-school spirit of respect and camaraderie. Bike clubs and a variety of bikers shared this camaraderie throughout the weekend.
The spacious and conveniently located fairgrounds, along with incredible riding throughout the weekend served up smiles on bikers young and old. One biker shared his evaluation of the evolving rally on the Panguitch Old Skool MC Rally Facebook page: “I’ve been to the last four and it just gets better every year. This is going to be a bike destination must in no time.” Now that you know, we’ll see you in Panguitch, in 2024.
Teresa from Panguitch brings color to the black-clad bikers.
Jeff Daystrup’s Old School Brand Quality Pinstriping with a final touch for a customer.
The Jagertown drummer relaxes as he waits between shows.
My ride near the Grand Canyon’s north rim